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The Secret Any Good Dog Trainer Knows: Experience Alone is Not Enough

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A secret every good dog trainer knows: Experience alone is not enough. Continuing education in dog training is critical. Top Dog Training and Behavior Conferences

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This blog post is a follow-up to Is Your Dog Trainer Well Trained? How to Choose a Dog Trainer in 3 Easy Steps. That blog post talked about how to find a competent dog trainer and touched on the importance of memberships, certification, and experience. Alone, each is insufficient, but together they can, but do not always, mean that the dog trainer is skilled. 

Consistently pursuing continuing education to stay up to date on the latest research, techniques, and methods in dog training is a crucial trait of a competent dog trainer or behavior consultant.

Continuing education helps dog trainers to develop their skills, knowledge, and expertise. They can learn about new training tools, equipment, and technology, and how to integrate them into their training programs. 

They can also learn about the latest research in animal behavior, cognition, and learning, which can help them understand why dogs behave the way they do. As a result, they are able to provide their clients with the most effective, humane, and ethical training methods.

Dogs are individuals, and what works for one dog may not work for another. A dog trainer who engages in continuing education is better equipped to assess the individual needs of each dog and adjust their training methods accordingly. They can also provide their clients with more effective solutions to behavioral problems, such as aggression, anxiety, and fear.

Finally, continuing education can help dog trainers maintain their professional credentials and credibility. Many professional organizations require trainers to participate in continuing education to maintain their certification or membership. This ensures that the trainers are committed to their profession and are constantly improving their skills and knowledge.

There are several ways for a dog trainer to participate in continuing education

Attend conferences and seminars: 

There are many conferences and seminars on dog training and behavior that are held throughout the year. These events provide an opportunity for trainers to learn from experts in the field, network with other trainers, and stay up-to-date with the latest research and techniques.

Take online courses: 

Many organizations and educational institutions offer online courses on dog training and behavior. These courses provide trainers with flexibility and convenience, and they can be completed from anywhere with an internet connection.

Read books and articles: 

There are many books and articles on dog training and behavior that can provide trainers with new insights and ideas. Trainers can read books and articles on specific topics, such as aggression, anxiety, or obedience training, or they can read more general books on animal behavior and learning theory.

Work with a mentor: 

Working with a mentor who has more experience and expertise can be a valuable learning experience for a trainer. The mentor can provide guidance, feedback, and support as the trainer works with dogs and clients.

Participate in webinars and podcasts: 

Many organizations and trainers offer webinars and podcasts on dog training and behavior. These can be a convenient way to learn new information and techniques, and they can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.

Pursue advanced certifications: 

Pursuing advanced certifications from organizations like the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT), the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC), or the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) can provide trainers with opportunities for continuing education and professional development.

Personally, I am most excited about engaging in continuing education by attending live and in-person conferences. These events have been mostly on hold due to COVID-19 in recent years, and I am looking forward to reconnecting with speakers in person. Below, I have highlighted the 3 conferences I am eager to attend. 

My 3 Top Conferences for Dog Trainers and Behavior Consultants in 2023 

I love this graphic from 4 Paws University. Too commonly, people decide that they are a qualified dog trainer just because they have been around a lot of dogs.

The Canine Science Symposium
May 20-21, 2023
Where: San Franscisco, CA

According to its website, the Canine Science Symposium is an information-packed 2 days of dog science presented by the scientist themselves. This is the only dog training conference I have found where every single presenter is highly qualified and presenting their own work. Their website also indicates that for 2023 they have added in emerging scientist sessions where students are able to showcase their work via poster presentations. I think it is pretty cool that they are making such an effort to not only include, but also highlight, work from newcomers.

Association of Professional Dog Trainers Conference (APDT)
October 18-20, 2023
Where: Covington Kentucky
The APDT conference is one that I actually have not attended before! But, the APDT did fund a research grant for me for my thesis in Applied Animal Behavior and Welfare master’s degree program. That is not what intrigues me about this conference, though. The APDT conference features, lectures, but also includes hands-on workshops and covers topics from how to run your business to fixing a variety of dog behavior problems.

The Annual Art and Science of Animal Training Conference

I don’t think the 2023 dates and times have been announced for this conference yet. It’s been on my wish list for a long time, so I hope it happens! This conference focuses on taking applied behavior analysis and applying it to training and interactions in everyday life with our companion animals. I have heard nothing but great things about this conference over the years. Like the Canine Science Symposium, I really appreciate that the presenters are scientists informing us about the most up-to-date advances in the field.

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